Author: Lee Weems

Class Review: Advanced Tactical Pistol with Ken Hackathorn

“Under stress, you have got to have skill… Situational awareness is the single most important skill.” –Ken Hackathorn

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Eighteen shooters turned out for a rainy Saturday and beautiful Sunday of shooting with one of the foremost instructors in the business. Participants came from at least three states, and the class was a mix of private citizens, federal agents, and the Sheriff of a Georgia county.

Ken Hackathorn 2014 - Tactical Handgun

Ken Hackathorn 2014 – Tactical Handgun in Atlanta, Georgia

 

We began with a discussion of common elements found in self-defense incidents. That was followed by a discussion of current trends in the firearms industry and the firearms that he is most commonly seeing coming through his classes now.

We then moved on to the live fire portion of the class and did some basic shooting and assessment drills so that he could see where we all were as shooters. The drills were pass/fail drills shot against a standard. We shot these as a mix of individual competition and the entire class shooting the drills altogether. We also shot some pivot/turn drills as well as some reloading drills. After a supper break, we had a low light session.

Sunday was a full day of shooting. The focus was primarily on shooting while moving. Added to that was some strong-hand-only and support-hand-only work.

Of note, we shot some point shooting drills. One of these drills involved a lot of movement and with our sights taped over. We then shot the same drill using sights. The evolution in which the sights were used had better results. Imagine that; that little bumpy thing on the muzzle end is actually there for something…. might as well use it. (Note: that is a poke at people that say you don’t need your sights inside certain distances. It is not a poke at the drill or the instructor.)

As for what he was packing, Mr. Hackathorn was toting a Hackathorn Signature Series 1911 from Wilson Combat. There was quite a bit of friendly banter back and forth on this issue as he is an unabashed fan of the 1911 platform.

Ken Hackathorn 2014 - Tactical Handgun

Ken Hackathorn 2014 – Tactical Handgun in Atlanta, Georgia

I enjoyed the opportunity to spend a couple of days with someone as venerated as Ken Hackathorn. I particularly enjoyed the back and forth banter and all of the historical insights.

Ken Hackathorn 2014 - Tactical Handgun

Ken Hackathorn 2014 – Tactical Handgun in Atlanta, Georgia

And now for a bonus science lesson:

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Class Review: Rogers Shooting School

“Reactive shooting is shooting in the target’s time and not the shooter’s time.” –Bill Rogers

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The Rogers Shooting School is one of the most prestigious shooting schools in the world. Some of the world’s most elite military and law enforcement units come there each year, and “The Test” is well known among the shooting community. I won’t go into a detailed explanation of The Test. Rather, click here to go to Todd Green’s site for an excellent break down and videos of each stage. A minimum passing score is 70 plates and earns a Basic rating. An Intermediate rating is earned by getting 90 or more plates, and an Advanced rating is earned by getting 110 plates. There are 125 total plates possible in The Test.

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During my trip to Rogers, I was witness to a memorable event in shooting history. Now in its third decade of operation only two people had ever shot perfect scores on The Test. The founder, Bill Rogers, has done it twice, and the legendary Rob Leatham has done it once. In my class, two perfect 125s were shot. One was by Gabe White, and the other was by noted USPSA shooter Manny Bragg. If that wasn’t enough, Gabe White did it shooting from concealment.

I think the best way to describe Rogers is that it forces the shooter to maintain a strong mental focus. Any lapse leads to a cascading collapse of fundamentals and numerous steel plates taunting you as they drop out of sight.

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Shooting my advanced run under the watchful eye of Gunsite’s Ken Campbell

I am happy to report that I earned an Advanced rating.

Participants in the class came from as far away as Alaska. We also had participants from Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Indiana, California and Florida. We had a full gamut of weather from short and t-shirt weather on Sunday evening followed by rain on Monday and Tuesday to freezing temperatures on Wednesday and a beautiful day on Thursday. We managed to finish on Friday before another round of rain hit.

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Class Review: Rangemaster Combative Pistol I

“You don’t have time to miss.”

I could stop right there and sum up the essential lesson from the class, but that wouldn’t make for much of an adventure through the blogosphere.

Tom Givens of Rangemaster brought his Combative Pistol I class to my proverbial backyard. He was assisted by John Hearne, Jeremy Younger, and the lovely and gracious Mrs. Lynn Givens. There were 24 students in the class, including one who came all the way to Georgia from Pennsylvania only to be topped by another student who came all the way from New Mexico. The class was a mixture of private citizens and peace officers.

Due to logistics, we did all of the classroom work on the first morning of the class. The classroom portion consisted of a safety briefing followed by discussions of several real world incidents and the lessons learned from them. We then moved on to a discussion of basic techniques.

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After lunch, we convoyed to the range and began the shooting portion of the class. We began with warm-ups and then moved into drills all designed around specific teaching points.

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Day two consisted completely of shooting drills, and other than the initial warm-up, everything was shot from concealment.

Rather than going into the specifics of each and every drill, I’ll simply say that each drill had a specific purpose, they built upon one another, and they gave the students a structured way to practice in their own range sessions. We also shot several scored tests to assess our skills and our progression, and there were several drills where we shot on our own against the clock with everyone watching to kick up the stress factor.

 

Now I can move to the most important part of the class review:

The firearms training community is full of devotees to schools of thought who are not bashful about espousing their particular chosen sacred cow and then dogmatically defending it. Tom did a very good job of explaining why he teaches what he teaches, and he also explained many of the other schools of thought often including their origins and how they have been misinterpreted over the years. The focus was on efficiency and precision rather than such things as a Weaver versus Isosceles or  caliber debates. The pace was quick with students either shooting or loading magazines with no downtime other than a few short breaks, and the discussions were all brief and on point with the lesson at hand.

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I’ve been in a lot of classrooms over the years between my academic pursuits and professional training, and Tom is absolutely one of the top teachers I have experienced. His lessons are more than proven. Over 60 of his students have successfully defended themselves in violent encounters. The very, very few that have lost failed to have a firearm with them when they needed it.

Below are my results on two of the tests:

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Shots In The Back: Not Automatically A Bad Shooting

Those whose  education on the use of force and the dynamics of a shooting incident is limited to the typical “western” movie or TV shows are indoctrinated to believe that shots in the back automatically make a shooting a bad shooting.  The fact of the matter is that this simply isn’t the case.

I highly recommend the articles found at the following two links.  They do an excellent job of explaining of how a good shooting just MAY result in shots to the back.  This applies not only to peace officers but to armed citizens as well.

Click to access forcescienceresearchcenter.pdf

http://www.forcescience.org/shotback.html

Legal Requirements for a Road Check in Georgia

I am not looking to get into a debate concerning road checks, roadblocks, check points, or whatever you want to call them.  That is not the purpose of this posting.  The purpose of the post is simply to provide the information as it was requested.

To download and read an article from the  Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia on the topic: click here.  The article goes over the history of the Georgia court’s rulings in this area as well as two recent case that expanded upon the requirements.  I’m not going to rehash all of it since it is readily available.

The short version is that here are the seven requirements handed down by the Georgia courts to consider a roadblock legal are:

1.  The roadblock was implemented pursuant to a checkpoint program that has, when viewed at the programmatic level, an appropriate primary purpose other than general crime control;

2.  The decision to implement the specific roadblock in question was made by a supervisor in advance, and not by an officer in the field;

3.  All vehicles that passed through the roadblock were stopped, rather than random vehicle stops;

4.  The delay to motorists was minimal;

5.  The roadblock was well-identified as a police checkpoint;

6.   The screening officers staffing the roadblock possessed sufficient training and experience to qualify them to make an initial determination as to which motorists should be subjected to field sobriety testing; and

7.  Under the totality of the circumstances, the stop of the defendant was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

Again, I am not looking to get into a debate concerning roadblocks.

2014 Polite Society Tactical Conference

The 2014 Polite Society Tactical Conference was held on February 21-13, 2014, at the Rangemaster facility in Memphis, TN.  The three-day conference consisted of numerous presentations by an amazing collection of knowledgeable instructors.  Three different options were available at any given time to attendees, and a myriad of topics were covered.  While I did attend a few presentations on other topics,  I tried to attend those that dealt with what is known about what happens in violent encounters; especially what those who won the encounters did and how they prepared, and these are the presentations I will discuss in this piece.

Before I get to that, I would like to thank the folks Rangemaster for organizing and hosting this conference.   The chance to partake of that much collective knowledge was a wonderful learning opportunity.  There were times when it was difficult to choose which class to attend as the concurrent options were all equally appealing.  I took 24 pages worth of notes, and many of the takeaways from the sessions will be incorporated into our training program.

William Aprill’s presentation concerning how violent criminal actors (VCAs) select victims forms the cornerstone for this area of discussion.  It basically comes down to the VCA making a “go or no go” decision based on indicators by the person they have targeted.  This is really no different than a lion surveying a herd of lion food and picking which member of the herd will be dinner that night.

Shane Gosa, a fellow Georgia peace officer, presented “The Mental Trigger” based on Jeff Cooper’s Principles of Personal Defense as well as other pertinent information.  Shane also addressed items such as mental awareness and winning the violent encounter rather than merely surviving it.

Tom Givens’ presentation on “Defining the Threat” was outstandingly well done.  Mr. Givens approached the question from the perspective of a citizen and not that of those in the military or uniformed patrol officers, and his breakdown if the information is the best I have ever seen.  His presentation (as was Chuck Haggard’s) on active shooters was nicely done, and quite frankly, I don’t understand how anyone could receive that information and then go about without the means to defend themselves.  As for active shooters, or active murderers as they should be called, every examination of the topic that have seen shows that the more rapidly force is brought to bear on the murderer the lower the body count.

Jim Higginbotham’s “Fire for Effect” presentation focused on accuracy in a critical event.  I found his illustrations of how many of the qualifying and competition targets actually reward high point values to areas that are not likely to instantly incapacitate a violent attacker to be quite revealing.  In my words, a fellow can kill you a whole lot if you give him 15 seconds to do it.

John Hearne did an outstanding job of debunking many of the myths and outright falsehoods that permeate firearms training.  I’m not much of a “science guy”, but his explanation of how the brain works was done in an easy to understand manner, and he makes a strong case for training to the point of “overlearning” (fancy scientific term) and building the proper mental maps and skill level as predictors for success in a violent encounter.

At this point, I would like the readers to take note that there is some commonality when both peace officers and private citizens are faced with a violent encounter, and overcoming the “initiative deficit” is imperative.   The difference here is that peace officers often initiate contact with the VCA whereas the private citizen is targeted; however, it is the response to that violence that must come swiftly and decisively, and the preparation shouldn’t begin at the point a person realizes there is a need for such.

 

 

 

 

 

Dynamic Fighting Rifle

Recently, I had the opportunity to take Erik Lund’s Dynamic Fighting Rifle class. I met Erik several years ago as a fellow student at an IALEFI Master Instructor Development Program and was happy to get the chance to take a class from him. For those not familiar with his background, the brief overview is that he has been a peace officer for over 20 years, is a USPSA Grand Master, and shoots on the FNH USA Professional Shooting Team, and he has numerous championships to his credit.

The students for the class represented four agencies in Georgia, and most were either firearms instructors, members of a tactical team, or both; so, after the introductions and safety briefing, we jumped right into the material. The class had a high shooting to discussion ratio, and was fast paced with around 700 rifle rounds fired per shooter plus some pistol work, and if we weren’t shooting, we were loading mags. It was a full day of training, and I don’t think any student left with the feeling that they didn’t get their money’s worth. We did a lot shooting while moving and from unconventional positions as well as some optics failure drills (no biggie for me as I was running iron sights exclusively).

 

The shooting community is not autonomous. There are those who only believe in the validity of “tactical” training, and often those of this ilk shun the competitive shooting world; usually with a “competition will get you killed” thrown in for good measure. The competitive shooting side of equation is not replete with spotless lambs as too many of them want to use punching holes in paper after a stage brief and a walkthrough as the exclusive measure of one’s ability with a firearm when, to be perfectly blunt, they have never had to go through a door with a true life or death shooting problem, to include a shoot/no shoot decision, waiting for them on the other side. These are broad generalizations to a certain extent, but they are illustrative of diametric mindsets that too often prevent the lessons learned from one being applied to the other.

Erik is one of the few out there that can successfully walk through both worlds with equal credibility. Frank Proctor of Way of the Gun is another such person. With the above in mind, Erik addressed the debate by saying that competition processes can be applied to tactical applications. In other words, the things learned about techniques and equipment from the competition world (processes) can be applied by those who must use tactics. A gunfight is solving a tactical problem at speed. That is not saying that you learn tactics in competition; rather, it is saying that you can combine the lessons of how do the important things faster in combination with sound tactics.

Among the so called tactical crowd, there is a debate over accuracy versus speed. This debate actually is in part based upon wound ballistics theory. I have been in some classes where the instructors made a case for intentionally spreading the wounds around the torso to create as many wound channels as possible. I have also been subjected to the notion (an absurd notion in my opinion) that if you are shooting a tight group that you aren’t shooting fast enough and that you are worrying too much about accuracy. Erik’s philosophy is that “accuracy is damage at speed “and that “damage is damage is damage”; however, he was clear in that the bad guy just might not present his entire torso to you and he might not give you a lot of time to aim; so, you better be able to make tight shots and do it in a hurry.

Paired with the debate about speed, the tactical side of the house debates over when confronted with a threat whether or not a shooter breaking for cover should concentrate on making it to cover or should they shoot at the threat while moving. Erik is definitely a proponent of putting shots on the threat. An illustration of this is included in the accompanying video.

Erik is also not a fan of the “shoot two and assess” model. He says that too often people want to run a rifle like it is a pistol and equates this to driving a race car at 55 MPH. He stresses driving the rifle hard and to keep hammering the threat until it is no longer a threat. Again, accuracy is damage at speed and damage is damage is damage. Unless a drill had a specified number of rounds for a specific training purpose, we were expected to shoot between two and six round on every fire command with the caveat that we could not fire the same number of rounds twice in a row.

Erik does not treat the pistol as if it is a secondary weapon. He refers to it as a complimentary weapon. He says there are times when it may be advantageous to go to the pistol instead of the rifle if in a very tight space or other such similar situations. We did do some work on transitioning to pistol and at any time a shooter experienced a malfunction and ran out of ammo during a drill they were expected to transition to their pistol in order to complete the drill. He did expect us to be doing tactical reloads to keep our rifles fully stoked so as not to be running dry.

In conclusion, this was an excellent class. If you get the opportunity to train with Erik you should take it. You will most certainly get a high return for your training dollar and your ammo expenditure. For all of you instructors out there, you will also come away as a better instructor as you will pick up a lot of teaching points that are readily adaptable to other platforms.

 

Apparently Tone Does Make A Difference

The following video shows a group officers stopping a person who was walking down a sidewalk with a slung rifle. The lead officer indicates that he stopped the individual because he was armed and wanted to check to see if the guy was “just exerting his Constitutional rights.”  The officer also made a general reference to active shooters, but went on to say, “I think I know what is going on here.” During the stop, the lead officer makes several references shooting the individual in the head.  His only articulation of anything criminal was a general reference to active shooters.

This incident is actually being portrayed in some circles as the officer being pro-Second Amendment. I suppose this is because the officer does make several “pro” statements, but, in my opinion, these statements are clearly overshadowed by the repeated references to shooting the individual in the head. I am further baffled by some people with whom I am acquainted who are themselves very pro-carry holding this out as a positive example of how officers should handle such situations.

I do not understand this. The lead officer stated that he stopped the guy solely for being armed, which is clearly contrary to numerous holdings by the United States Supreme Court, and made numerous references to shooting the individual in the head. This leads to the question of whether these same people would be okay with being stopped when legally carrying simply for carrying and then being threatened with being shot in the head. The Reasonable Articulable Suspicion standard for an investigative (Tier 2) stop requires specific and articulable facts when taken together and based upon the officer’s knowledge, training, and experience lead the officer to believe that criminal activity is afoot. Is it reasonable to believe that just because someone is armed that they are a mass shooter?

The officer does have an even tone, and under the circumstances of the contact, his tone could even be described as somewhat genial. The officer then sets forth to lecture the individual concerning his open carrying in such a manner as being ultimately detrimental to Second Amendment rights. With this part, I actually am in large part in agreement; however, this is simply a personal opinion.  I do understand that my personal opinion is not a valid reason to shoot people in the head, or any other part of their anatomy; thus, I can’t say such things to those who root for that bastion of evil inhabiting a football stadium in the suburbs of Dallas.

According to my philosophy professor in college, all Beagles are dogs but not all dogs are Beagles…

Compare the above video to those below where another officer pretty much says the same things except that his statements were made in the middle of a tirade. He was rightfully on the receiving end of copious amounts of outrage.

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I guess he should have used a calm and even tone, and then everything would have been okay as he calmly states that he could murder a person and make their body disappear.

If you would like to listen to the non-emergency line call to dispatch for the first video, you can do so by clicking here.

50 Years of the McFadden Stop

On The Job

On October 31, 1963, Detective Martin McFadden, age 62 at the time of the incident, took action that would lead to one of the landmark cases in criminal procedure: Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). At the time of the incident, Detective McFadden was a 39 year veteran of the Cleveland Police Department. His career ultimately would span 45 years with 41 of those years as a Detective, and he was noted for his ability to capture thieves and pickpockets especially “Louie the Dip” Finkelstein.

On the day in question, Detective McFadden would spot two individuals (later joined by a third) in front of a store “casing a job, a stick-up”. He had watched the individuals repeatedly walking to a store window, looking inside, and then walking away and conferring. He eventually confronted the individuals and ultimately arrested two of them on weapon’s charges after “frisking” them and finding their pistols.

The individuals were convicted and the case ultimately wound up before the Supreme Court where it was upheld. In short, the Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment reasonableness standard is not violated when a peace officer has a reasonable articulable suspicion (RAS) to conduct an investigatory stop. Two important notes from the ruling was that, first, the Court stated that mere “good faith” of the peace officer is not enough to justify such a stop.  Second, The Court also drew (and continues to draw) a distinction between that of a person being armed and that of a person being “armed and presently dangerous”. In other cases, the Court has ruled that there is not a firearms exception to the Fourth Amendment and thus their presence alone is no different that a person being in possession of a wallet (an actual example from a Supreme Court ruling).

Since the ruling in this case was handed down, investigatory stops have often been termed as “Terry Stops”. I take umbrage with this. Terry was one of the bad guys. Detective McFadden was the one that put forth some excellent police work; so, we should be calling these “McFadden Stops”, but alas, cops are like offensive lineman in that we only get close-up shots and our number called when forget the snap count or get caught holding.

The concept of reasonable articulable suspicion and the facts of the case are more detailed than what I have condensed here. The purpose of this article is to pay respects to Detective McFadden on the 50th anniversary of the incident.

Special thanks go out to retired Commander Bob Cermack of the Cleveland Police Department and the Cleveland Police Museum for providing pictures of Detective McFadden as well as other documents.

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Detective McFadden at work.

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Detective McFadden at his retirement party.

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Detective McFadden’s obituary.

FBI Police Firearms Instructor Course

I recently had the opportunity to complete the FBI Police Firearms Instructor Course. In order to attend the course, candidates had to pre-qualify by successfully shooting passing scores on five courses of fire. Three of these courses were shot with duty pistols, one was shot with a patrol rifle, and the other was with a shotgun. I do not know the total number of candidates that applied for the class. On the day that I shot my pre-qualifying rounds, only eight out of 12 of us shot the requisite scores. Twenty-four students qualified and were enrolled in the class. Twenty-three students successfully completed the program.

FBI Firearms Instructor Certificate (1)

The high point of the class, in my opinion, was a block of instruction taught by Frank Proctor. Mr. Proctor is a member of the Unites States Army Special Forces, and he is also a USPSA Grand Master as well as being an IDPA Master. His block was concerned with weapons manipulations and focussed on “processing” what was happening throughout the shooting process. I look forward to being able to take more classes from him in the future.

Tiger McKee also taught a block of instruction on weapons manipulations. I picked up several teaching points from him that I will be incorporating into future classes.

Of the academic blocks, I found a block on Critical Incident Amnesia to be very informative. Of note, this material applies not only to officer involved shootings to both victims of violent crimes and citizens who find themselves in situations in which they must use force. This block is one that will go well beyond the range as it will also come into play when conducting interviews.

There were blocks on many other shooting and academic areas such as law enforcement officers flying while armed, lesson plan development, and ballistics.

As for the overall course itself, in comparison to the Firearms Instructor course at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, the GPSTC course involved much more teaching of the prospective instructor on how to teach the art of shooting. The FBI course had more of a focus on developing the instructor’s overall firearms knowledge. The GPSTC course was also centered around the pistol with the shotgun being the only other platform utilized in that course whereas the FBI course covered pistol, rifle, shotgun, and, yes, the revolver.

Another area of comparison is that the GPSTC course is taught completely by academy staff, and the program is the same regardless of staff instructor teaching it. The FBI course utilized many area instructors, and it appeared the subject matter could change significantly depending upon the instructors that teach in a particular class. Also, as this particular class was held in Alabama, there was a strong tendency towards the Alabama POST (APOST) standards, which fairly closely mirrored those of the FBI itself. The APOST courses have much more of a focus on longer range accuracy (50 yard shots with the support hand on the revolver course), and they are typically shot on one target. The GA POST standards which have more draws and reloads under time and require shots on multiple targets as well as shots while moving.

Finally, the biggest lesson I took from the course was from a major mistake that I made. Throughout the course, we had a running “Top Gun” competition going. I won several of the individual courses of fire and was very much in the running for the award. The last course that we shot for score in the competition was the rifle course, and here is where I made my error. The last time that I had my rifle out was during a manhunt at night. I flipped the rear aperture to the “low light” aperture. For those unfamiliar, this aperture is much larger to allow the shooter to get more visible light around the all important front sight. It is also often used in “close quarters” situations as it allows for faster sight acquisition. The trade off is that it is much less precise than the smaller aperture. Ultimately, I stored my rifle without flipping back to the smaller aperture and thus I shot the entire rifle course with the wrong aperture and gave up enough points that I finished in third place. The top three places were decided by points to the right of the decimal place.

I do have the satisfaction of being beaten with my own gun as I loaned a revolver to the eventual Top Gun winner after the revolver his agency provided him would not function properly. He is also a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces. I feel pretty good about running down to the wire with one of the elite.

FBI Bullseye Course

FBI Pistol Course

FBI Shotgun Course

FBI Rifle Course

Old APOST Course